WE HAVE the Ancient Greeks and Romans to thank for the tradition of steam baths and massages.
Even until Victorian times there were spa retreats all over Europe, where the wealthy took the waters or searched for the latest medical treatments.
Nearby Harrogate, of course, still has its public spa baths. What is less well known is that places like Lockwood and Slaithwaite also had spas.
And so the newly-refurbished Titanic Mill in Linthwaite - home to the region's newest spa - is following in an established tradition, one that is being revived up and down the country in the 21st century.
In the past spa visitors were often seeking cures or treatments for ailments. Today's spa-goers are in search of peace, relaxation and unashamed pampering.
"It is a huge niche market," says Jennifer Carr, from The Spa PR Company, an agency that promotes spas around the world.
It says something about the growth of the industry that it can support an entire PR business.
"A lot of hotels are finding that it's a smart move to add a spa onto their facilities. When they do it's been found that 44% of all takings are from spa bookings, compared to 36% from the restaurant.
"People like complete pampering because they are working faster, harder and longer than ever. They need that sense of escapism and relaxation. They are taking more holidays and to more exotic places. A weekend on Brighton Beach isn't going to cut it any more," she added.
Urban spas provide a quick fix - a day or a few hours of escape - whereas destination spas with accommodation, often in countryside or exotic locations, offer total indulgence.
Even Butlins offers the spa experience, advertising two-night Spa Breaks at its Skegness Centre. It follows closely in the footsteps of upmarket holiday company Center Parcs, which now has luxury spas at all its UK sites.
The Yorkshire region has seen a number of new spa developments in recent years - some are stand-alone spas while others are attached to hotel complexes. Titanic Spa in Linthwaite is the latest.
It is part of a conversion by Lowry Renaissance of an historic mill, so-named because it was completed the year of the ill-fated ship's maiden voyage in 1912.
It is both an urban and destination spa, providing facilities for the residents of the mill's apartments, as well as a day retreat for local visitors and hotel rooms to attract spa-users from further afield.
Its brochure describes the spa as being "favoured for its seclusion in the Yorkshire Dales", which might bring a smile to the residents of Linthwaite, who thought they lived in a former industrial heartland.
However, the spa has been finished to the sort of high-tech standards that modern spa-goers have come to expect.
It has a state-of-the-art gym with equipment that does everything except the actual exercise, a swimming pool, and hot and cold spa rooms. Every kind of massage, facial, mud and hydroptherapy treatment is available and the spa is hoping that it will become a venue for people treating themselves to a day of luxurious pampering.
(Interestingly, Titanic follows in the best traditions of spas by having its own water supply, from a borehole outside the mill.)
Spa days don't come cheaply but, says Jennifer, there seems to be plenty of money about for pampering experiences: "People are becoming a lot more health and grooming conscious and are willing to spend a lot more money than they used to on themselves."
Spa PR also represents Waterfall Spa, the new women-only urban spa in Leeds. The city centre retreat is compact and focussed entirely on pampering - there is no gym and no swimming pool. It's only a few weeks since it opened but it is already busy and has attracted permanent members as well as away-day clients.
Another of the region's spas, Eastthorpe Holistic Health Spa in Mirfield, has quite a different ambience to the modern minimalist spas. A family-run business, launched just over five years ago, it offers bespoke packages of treatments in a period country house. Sam Pearce, a partner in the spa, says that the numbers of people using the spa have risen threefold since its opening.
"Our customers are split down the middle. We have people who come because they are recovering from illnesses and want to heal emotionally and physically. They are interested in our holistic treatments and therapies. Then there are those who come for the beauty treatments and just want to be pampered.
"We get groups of people, hen parties, mums and daughters, people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries," she said.
The strength of Eastthorpe is the way clients are given a personal service. This is reflected in the fact that repeat visits account for up to 80% of its business.
One thing all three spas have in common is excellent food; freshly cooked on the premises. And all three offer a wide variety of treatments. As the spa business is now so competitive there is a perpetual search for the latest thing; the newest treatment and the most exotic therapy. From hot and cold stones therapy to chocolate facials; colonic irrigation to seaweed wraps; chakra balancing to reflexology, you can get them all. But a good spa should be judged by the quality of the staff performing the treatments as well as the facilities.
A recent spa survey conducted by The Times found that 10% of spa-goers said they felt ripped off because of overpriced treatments performed by inexperienced staff. They also complained about the hard-selling of spa products.
However, the good news is that most people found the experience relaxing and peaceful, which in these fast-paced hard-working times is just what we need.
Expectto pay between £50 and £100 to use a spa for a full day. For this you will usually get the full use of the spa rooms - saunas, steam rooms etc - but no treatments, which have to be booked and paid for separately.
At Titanic, a full-body aromatherapy massage is £65 for 55 minutes; at Eastthorpe it is £45 for 60 minutes; and at Waterfall Spa it is £70 for an hour.
A spa session at Titanic is £50 for three hours (lunch extra in the bistro).
At Waterfall, a full spa day, including lunch, is £100. Eastthorpe will tailor a day package and the price depends upon the treatments booked.